Reincarnation As Purgatory?


I had a very strong Catholic woman once ask if I thought perhaps reincarnation was compatible with the Catholic teaching on purgatory: Is it possible that it is the way we finish the unfinished, learn to love more fully, and finally attain worthiness of heaven? I know many Catholics turn down reincarnation on the grounds of “after death comes judgement,” but Catholics DO agree that this judgement is merely assignment to heaven, hell, or purgatory.

What do you think? I know the apologist on this site has said before “ghost” sightings and reports may be related in some instances to souls experiencing their purgatory here on earth by revisiting certain important events. What about this?


As a part of my job, I deal with orthadox jewish rabbis. You know, the ones dressed in black with beards who will not even flip a light switch during the Sabath. I have talked with him at length about the orthadox jewish views on many subjects. He has made it very clear the orthadox jews (the same faith which Jesus would have followed) believes in reincarnation. One may be reincarnated many times in order to perfect a bad trait or to perfect ones holyness. So, initially, the Apostles would have been raised with this belief.


[quote=Cathechism of the Catholic Church] 1013 Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When “the single course of our earthly life” is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: “It is appointed for men to die once.” There is no “reincarnation” after death.


Ryan :slight_smile:


The Catholic does not teach reincarnation. period.


Hi Aloysius,

If lt happens that souls in purgatory are allowed to intervene on earth after their death, that is not re-incarnation. Re-incarnation is the same soul coming back with different bodies.

Re-incarnation is incompatible with Christian doctrine. Our eternal fate is determined by the way we live our life here on earth.



The concept of purgatory and reincarnation are distinct and it would, under Catholic Theology, be impossible to unify them. Reincarnation implies a second chance but not necessarily progress. I.e., generally a person can back slide and end up worse off after the second, third, forth time, etc. In contrast, purgatory is not a second chance, rather it is a period of purification for those who have been saved but whom need to be cleansed of the stain of venial sin. Someone in purgatory will be in heaven; someone reincarnated doesn’t necessarily attain heaven or paradise or what have you.



Even the etynmology of the term “reincarnate” is incompatible. Purgatory occurs in the afterlife as a purification for the final stage of heaven.

The term literally means

Re = again
in = in
carnate = flesh

We do not return in the flesh to live another earthly life.


With respect, Orthodoxy is a concept in Judaism that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple and it developed from the Pharisees.

The concept of reincarnation definitely existed in Judaism around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, so it is likely the idea existed in the Jesus, but there is no way of knowing how wide spread the belief was. It seems reasonable to believe, based on the context of the scriptures, that the Apostles and Jesus never believed in reincarnation the way many modern Orthodox do.



They may not have believed it. Jesus may have known all along that it was a false teaching. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t taught during the time. The rabbis will tell you that, in essence, they follow the same jewish faith that existed at the time of Jesus. They are the catholics, if you will, of the jewish faith. They believe the conservative and reform sects are in error and have left the true faith.


There are a number of books out there that purport to give evidence for “past lives” and reincarnation. People interviewed have “memories” of a past life. I think that there is someone who theorized that this did not “prove” reincarnation, but that these “memories” are somehow carried in the genes/DNA which we get from our ancestors.

The Catholic Church has never taught reincarnation and never will. :slight_smile:


Not that I believe in reincarnation (I’m even trying to find a way to battle this belief at home with Spiritualist relatives), but this talk just reminded me of something. The Orthodox do not share the Catholic concept of Purgatory. One “theory” that I’ve heard about is refered to as the “toll booth” approach: after death we are tried by demons, who tempt us to sin, and we can still be condemned to Hell or gain in grace. I don’t know how widespread this belief is amongst the Orthodox though. For more on it, see here.


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